Albertsons ranks fourth among Colorado supermarkets — behind King Soopers, Wal-Mart and Safeway. More than a year ago the grocer’s CEO said that “in markets where we don’t see a path to being the No. 1 chain or a strong No. 2, we’re looking at various alternatives,” which has today’s Denver Post speculating that the company may close its 61 Colorado stores.

In Nebraska, where Albertsons was third, the alternative was exiting the market. Albertsons this year sold its 11 Omaha stores to competitors. Across the country over the past three years, Albertsons has closed or sold a total of 213 properties in Nebraska; New Orleans; Nashville and Memphis, Tenn.; Houston; and San Antonio.

One industry watcher said that given Albertsons’ weak market position in Colorado, an exit is possible. “I would say they’re closing, they’re just setting it all up,” said Ted Kraus, retail consultant and president of New Jersey-based TKO Real Estate Advisory Group, which manages and leases 200 shopping centers nationwide. “They want enough rumors so people contact them about taking over the locations.”

Albertsons’ Colorado plans could also affect the currently stalemated labor negotiations now going on between Albertsons, King Soopers and Safeway, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.

Albertsons, based in Boise, Idaho, might be hard-pressed to agree to union concessions if they plan to exit the Colorado market, Kraus said.